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« What Runners Need to Know About Sports Massage A New Massage Clinic in Beeston »

Move More, Sit Less: The Dangers of Sitting All Day

Categories: Muscle Dysfunction
Tags: Sports Massage, Back Pain, Posture, Sitting

Most of the modern-day population are living with some kind of muscular dysfunction. Years of performing the same actions such as sitting at a desk, driving, standing and using smartphones has had a massive impact on the level of dysfunction in our bodies.  This happens because our bodies are held in the incorrect posture. For example, you might drop one hip when you stand, drive with one arm high up the steering wheel, or sit with your wallet in your back pocket. Or maybe you hang your neck forward to stare down at your phone. Sound familiar?

Over time, this eventually causes issues with the muscles, joints and our physical alignment, leaving us with pain and a limited range of movement. Dysfunction in one area of the body has a knock-on effect throughout the whole body, leading to issues in other areas.

Modern-Day Sedentary Lifestyles

A large proportion of jobs these days are sedentary, with many people spending 8-10 hours each day sitting at a desk or driving. The effects of such prolonged periods of sitting include poor posture, tension in the neck and shoulders, and lower back pain. It’s therefore not surprising that around 85% of our clients come to see us with some form of back pain!

When someone’s sitting all day there are a certain number of muscles in the body that are “stuck” in one position for many hours. It is unnatural for the human body to be in one static place for a long time. Think about where our design has evolved from - if you go back thousands of years, we were either chasing the big toothy monster for our dinner or it was chasing us! There was no modern technology there to do everything for us like there is today. In essence, thousands of years ago we moved more and the human body was designed to move.

Consequently, if we are sitting for hours and the only movement is the odd wiggle, gear change or mouse click, then certain areas of the body are just not moving enough. You must have heard the famous quote “use it or lose it”? Over months, years or even decades of sitting, your muscles will get used to being in this state.

What happens to the body when we sit all day?

  • The muscles at the front of the hips are constantly shortened - over time they will become short and tight
  • The muscles at the back of the hips are constantly lengthened - over time they will become long and weak
  • Tight hip flexors will pull down and forward on the pelvis
  • Your gluteal muscles (bum muscles) and hamstrings could switch off and then become weak

If we then consider that most sitting jobs involve extended periods at a computer or driving, both requiring you to keep your arms out in front of you, then this means that the chest and upper arm muscles are shortened and can be in constant contraction.

  • A tight chest will cause your shoulders to round
  • Rounded shoulders will cause the upper back to hunch forwards
  • The head will then tend to follow and sit forwards
  • Your back muscles, which are used for retracting the body / arms, will switch off and lengthen. Over time, they will lose some of their strength, affecting your posture

The back, neck and shoulders are generally where you will feel the pain and discomfort and this is when clients tend to come in for a sports massage to help reduce the pain. Massaging and treating the bit that hurts helps you to feel better in the short term, but really, we need to be looking at what the root cause behind the problem is: i.e. how prolonged sitting has caused tension in the hips/chest, leading to pain in the back, poor posture and muscle imbalances. The therapist needs to look beyond the site of pain at the whole body’s kinetics. In clinic, we would ask questions to gain a clear idea of how your day-to-day lifestyle is affecting your body. We would consider:

  • Your seating position at work, in the car and at home
  • Hip function
  • Gluteal activation
  • Thoracic flexion, extension and rotation
  • Pectoral tightness

By assessing your lifestyle, everyday activities and job, we can create an outline as to what the causes of the muscle dysfunction are, and work on getting you back into a more natural state. If we simply massage the bit that is in pain, then when you go back to, for example, prolonged sitting, the result will be the same issue occurring again and again.

What can you do to help?

You can really feel the benefits from some small, simple changes:

  • Assess and adjust your screen position, chair height and driving position
  • Get up and move around regularly
  • Do some regular exercise - yoga is one of our favorites
  • Stretch your pectorals, quadriceps and hip flexors regularly
  • Strengthen the muscles on the back of your body

Start with these ideas and you will have a great chance of ridding yourself of your office back pain.

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